Gear School, Vol. 1
Written by Adam Gallardo, Art by Nuria Peris and Sergio Sandoval
DarkHorse, 96 pp.
Rating: 8 +
Gear School is a sci-fi tale set in a future where mankind is locked in a war with a nameless alien menace. Thankfully mankind isn’t undefended and the ultimate machines of war in this era are known as Gears, hi-tech aircraft, mecha and the like piloted by the earths elite soldiers. It’s into this world that we follow seventh grader Teresa Gottleib as she struggles with the trial and tribulations of Gear School.
Coming in at 96 pages, Gear School makes for a quick and entertaining read. With such a limited number of pages the characters aren’t terribly fleshed out and it ends up feeling very plot heavy. Still, there’s not much time given to exploring Teresa’s motivation for joining Gear School which is a bit unfortunate, but they do manage to give us the feel of her average school day. The first half of the book gives us glimpses into her training regime, introduces us to her best friend and sets up social cliques and rivalries too. Meanwhile, the second half is made up primaril of an action sequence which forces Teresa to show off her piloting chops. Now, admittedly young people piloting hi-tech war machines is hardly breaking new ground. It’s a tried and true recipe in manga and anime, but isn’t terribly common in the US comics scene, so in that sense it’s a rather rare find.
The artwork is clean and eye catching, helped in part by the nice coloring throughout. There’s a variety of character body types, skin colors, hair styles and more and most of the characters are well differentiated. The vehicle designs are decent, but I think they fall a little short of being really memorable or fantastic. Visually the pacing is nice and even throughout as the book seems to stick to a four panel limit, rarely exceeding it and mostly breaking the pattern for dramatic splash pages when appropriate. One of my favorite visuals in the book comes in the form of the Gears “helper”, a program that relays suggestions, alerts, damage reports and the like to its pilot. It’s done using captions, but each caption comes complete with a little chibi narrator. It’s simple, cute and really entertaining.
I think this was overlooked by a lot of people when it first came out, because I’ve rarely seen it mentioned on comic or manga sites, which is a shame since it seems like it could have a lot of cross over appeal between manga and western comic readers. Still, someone out there liked it as a second volume is due out in late September and there’s apparently a short film in the works too. At any rate, it’s a pretty enjoyable and fun read and I’m looking forward to the second volume.
Gear School, Vol. 1 is available now.